Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


The Role of User Motivations in Moderating the Relation Between Video Game Playing and Children's Adjustment

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Eric Dubow, PhD

Second Advisor

Jean Gerard, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Anne Gordan, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Dara Musher-Eizenman, PhD (Committee Member)


Over the past several decades, the use of video games has been on the rise among children and adolescents, and therefore, researchers have focused on identifying potential consequences of playing video games. The aim of the current study was to connect research on the behavioral correlates of video game playing with motivation research by utilizing a social-cognitive model, whereby specific motivations (e.g., video games as companionship, dominance, achievement) were hypothesized to be cognitive moderators of the relation between playing video games and theoretically-related adjustment variables (e.g., social adjustment, aggression, self-esteem, perceived cognitive competence). Survey data were collected from 195 students and their teachers in both fifth and eighth grades in a semi-rural Midwestern community, and the results were analyzed for the sample as a whole and separately by gender and grade level. For several hypotheses, multiple hierarchical regression analyses supported the prediction that motivations would moderate the relation between frequency of playing video games and adjustment, and these moderator effects were described according to types of protective effects discussed by Luthar et al. (2000). Possessing low levels of negative motivations or high levels of positive motivations served as protective factors at low to moderate levels of video game play; but at the highest levels of video game play, the protective effects disappeared. In many cases, moderator effects were present for both the overall sample and gender and grade subsamples, but a few gender and developmental differences were found. The results of this study inform future directions for research concerning motivations and video game play. Additionally, the results suggest that children's motivations for playing video games might be important factors to consider in both development of interventions aimed at reducing negative effects and the decisions made by parents and other adults concerning restrictions on children's video game use.